A coworker once told me he didn’t believe people started to grow up until they hit thirty. He said it takes a minimum of thirty years for a human brain to “fully bake.” Now, I’m a tick or two (or three) over 30 and I realize he was right. At every stage in life I thought I was grown up. 15, 18, 22, 25, I was pretty sure I already knew everything important there was to know. Then I’d hit the next age and learn there might have been one little thing that escaped me, but for sure, that was it, so then at the new age and with the one little thing that escaped me before all figured out, I was really totally grown up.
This brings me to Disclaimer #1: I’ve always been wrong. I’ve NEVER been as mature as I thought I was. I’ve always had much to learn and new perspectives to consider, and it’s this realization that I think maybe means I might actually be **starting** to grow up (at least a little).
Disclaimer #2: The term “grown-up” is a loaded one for me. I used to consider it a bad word, a slur of lowest order. It’s my love for Peter Pan. Who wants to grow up? Grow a beard? No thanks. Not me. But now I see being grown-up can really mean whatever you want it to mean. It doesn’t have to be all work and no play. It’s not always have to’s and dead dreams. It’s a balance. Handle your responsibilities and enjoy your freedoms.
Here’s the few other possible signs of maybe actual grown-up-ness I’ve noticed so far.
1) I’ve acquired a tiny modicum of emotional maturity. Emotional maturity has to do with how we manage emotions in our lives. How are we guided (or controlled) by our emotions? Do we use our emotions to move toward the best choices?
A lot of folks seem to completely ignore their emotions and function like humanoid-drone-robots in a life they’re largely disconnected from. A lot of others seem completely controlled by their emotions at every moment, which means their actions are largely based on how they feel at any given time. Highly emotional people who can’t separate their emotions enough to work out a clear thought or two aren’t likely to make many decent longer-term decisions for themselves.
I’m not saying emotions aren’t important. They are. Very. Emotions are our internal guides and we need to be in tune with them, we need to try to understand when and why we have the feelings we do and incorporate that info into our choices, but emotions shouldn’t be the driving force in our lives at all times.
Realizing that how I feel about something isn’t always the most important thing (that sometimes (a lot of times) my feelings are the least important thing) was a big step forward. It’s taken every day of my life so far to begin to have a handle on this concept. I’m an emotional person. I have strong emotions about a lot of things, but I understand emotions are fleeting. How we feel about something one day won’t be how feel about it the next. We can’t change or control how we react or what’s happened, but we can control how we handle it and what impact it will have on our days going forward.
Reacting is the emotional part, but then we need to move past the initial gut reaction and considers consequences, long-terms plans, goals, priorities, responsibilities, and other people, then decide on the best response. How and where do we want to expend our energy?
2) I’ve seen young people die. I understand how precious little time we have on earth. I get that there are no guaranteed tomorrows, so I’m exceedingly picky about how I spend my energy. My time. My days. My life.
I try to dwell very little in anger or negativity. I do not spend time or energy on people who bring this sort of drama into my life. NO TIME. NO INTEREST. NO THANK YOU.
I no longer feel the need to make sure everyone I meet knows everything about me and everything I think about everything before I let them escape my presence. Five years ago this post would have been titled “One Hundred Things I know For Sure Now that I’m 28 PART 1.” Three things I might know is scaled back, toned down, because now I’m super-mature, see?
I try to listen more than I than I talk because, finally, I understand the benefit of learning from/about others, and I realize the listening/learning is MUCH more interesting than hearing myself talk about the same shit I always talk about.
3) I recognize the prospect of instant gratification as a warning sign. This awareness has a little to do with a few experiences I’d rather forget, and a lot to do with being more aware of what I want out of life, what’s important, what makes me happy, and focusing my efforts on building as much time into my days for these things as possible.
At some point, I realized it’s a battle of my own wants. What I want RIGHT NOW versus what I want MOST overall, and it can only be won by having a solid focus on what I want MOST.
One strange and empowering day, I hit a point where NOT working on what I wanted MOST was far worse than letting the lure of the quick fix pass. I learned to value the small steps of progress toward something bigger, to rally and keep working in tiny, day-in-and-day-out increments at what I wanted MOST and oh man, this is the hard stuff. Patience and discipline and focus are wild beasts to try to break, especially in today’s world, but the long-term pay-off is bigger than the right now, and being able to act accordingly (at least most of the time) is maybe my most grown up feat yet.
It looks like I’m averaging about one half-formed idea about grown-up-ness per decade of living. This feels like a reasonable pace. If I’m blessed enough to lead a long life, I might almost know seven or eight things before I die.
Be honest, did everyone else achieve these three measly nuggets of grown-up-ness when they really were like fifteen and this whole post is just evidence that I’m so far behind I think I’m winning?
Image Credit: Grown-ups are obsolete https://flic.kr/p/483bvJ By Sam Teigen license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/